How to enjoy the great outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

There’s lots to enjoy on a Highland estate on the banks of Loch Ness. No need to always hire outdoor activity companies when nature provides more than enough to entertain, teach and experience. Children adventure, explore and play during luxury family holidays giving you time to yourselves to relax. Couples can escape into their own romantic world for an afternoon. And families can spend quality time together using the grounds as they wish and discovering small, simple pleasures outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Wildlife spotting

Let’s start with the simple things nature has to offer: wildlife in its natural habitat. The Aldourie Estate is home to a wide variety of Scottish Highlands’ wildlife. Make your own fun acting like the animals you seek to find. For instance, there are dozens of pretty little roe deer all across the Aldourie Estate. They are particularly delicate creatures and make little sound. If you’re quiet enough, your footsteps won’t distract them and you could end up getting up close to these beautiful animals. Look out for them running across the parkland at dusk or looking for tasty brambles in pairs at the edge of the woods. Look up to the sky for your next character; you may just see osprey soaring over the open grounds or woodpeckers climbing to the tree tops in the heart of the woodland. The red squirrel home to the highlands is a real sight for sore eyes. It may come out to play if you happen to stumble upon its dwelling or stay in one place long enough. If you take a keen interest in Scottish wildlife then you may wish to explore some wildlife spotting locations outside Aldourie Estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Hide and Seek in the arboretum

Does anything sound more exciting than that? This outdoor activity is ideal to play in all weathers in any season here at Aldourie Castle. Who needs a garden maze when you have acres of foliage and tall oaks to hide behind? Your seeker should give you all at least a minute to set off on foot to your desired hiding location. Then, once you’re past the clearing the (outdoor) world is your oyster. Hide and seek outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate is exciting; for one thing, if it rains it’s even more difficult to be found.  If you’re staying over Halloween why not double the excitement by looking for hiding spots in the old family graveyard. During the winter months it’s bound snow at some point in the Highlands. Why not wait for a snowfall then venture off to the Castle ground’s arboretum to crunch your way through the undergrowth. Don’t forget to cover up any footprints!

Play make –believe in the tree house

The spectacular tree house at Aldourie blends synonymous with its surrounding environment. You can pass it and not know it’s there. It was built into the thick of the trees on the outskirts of the woods on the verge of Loch Ness. The impressively designed tree house is perfectly positioned for light and shelter and capturing fantastic views. Here you can bring your camera, hide from the rain or bring a good book or a pal or two. Absorb nature’s peaceful sounds and the fantastical scenery of the distant wild Highland hills. Use your imagination and pretend your captain of a great ship. Bring a pair of binoculars with you and look out to sea (or even more exciting; try to spot Nessie out on Loch Ness!).outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Read a book of fairy tales in the formal gardens

Family house parties thrive at Aldourie because of all the experiences to appreciate within unique and unforgettable settings. Curl up with your little one on a bench in the pretty Castle gardens. Then read them their favourite stories as delightful floral scents fragrance the air around you. Fairy tales lend themselves easily to the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate, which itself is full of adventure and magic. Just another example of how to have outdoor fun for children in the Scottish Highlands.

Get close to nature in the parkland

We’ve so many ideas for you and your young family to take advantage of on the 500 acre Estate. Springtime daffodils make for pretty photographs. During this happy season toddlers love chasing the bees from flower to flower and looking for ladybirds in the grass. Children can also clamber onto the small old bridge and look down on the small stream. Watching out for tiny fish amongst the rockeries and pebbles is a sure way of keeping their interest in the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.

Beach walks on Loch Ness

Strolling along Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate allows for a relaxing break in your day and offers a little gentle exercise. Let a fresh water mist on a calming breeze accompany your walk. The beach is great for varied company whether a family fun day or a romantic moonlit stroll. Or maybe you’d like some timeout on your own to reclaim your thoughts before your business meeting during a luxury corporate stay in the Castle. Take your shoes and socks off and have a splash about on Loch Ness’s southern shoreline; surely one of the most liberating ways to enjoy the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

The reason you book an exclusive use stay at Aldourie Castle is up to you. You may wish to hire the Castle to host a family house party or celebrate a special birthday of a close friend. But the large private Scottish estate is always there for you to enjoy at your leisure. For availability of our private hire property in Scotland please call 01463 751309 and speak to the hospitality manager. Our team at Aldourie will be happy to chat through the requirements of your exclusive luxury stay on Loch Ness.


Top 8 luxury self-catering holiday cottage requirements

We’ve devised a hopefully useful post, based on comments and testimonials left by previous Aldourie cottage guests. It’s a list of the top 8 requirements for a luxury self-catering holiday cottage. Maybe these will feature high up on your tick list when searching for your next cottage stay.

Scenic spot

When searching for the best location to experience a family holiday or stay with friends, scenery is key. An aesthetically pleasing setting helps to create a feeling of peace and calm during a short break. This is especially important because a cottage holiday or short break to some is ‘never long enough’ so settling in quickly is a must. We think there is nowhere more scenic than the tranquil waters of Loch Ness and the majestic Highlands beyond. Or acres of mysterious woodland full of adventure and play. These sought after settings are easily viewed from any window at Pier Cottage on the Aldourie Estate.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Your favourite people

A stay in a luxury self-catering holiday cottage is nothing if not enjoyed with the people you love to spend quality time with. Reading through the testimonials of previous cottage guests we discovered that many were anecdotes. Their personal experiences were based on situations with others; conversations, family jokes, old/new stories, trying new things together.

‘Laughter’ and its derivatives were words we came across a lot. How people felt when they were on holiday, the emotions they experienced, were all positive: happy, carefree, contented, calm. We all know the importance of being in the moment and mindfulness holidays are on people’s agenda for 2017. It seemed most enjoyed some ‘alone time’ or ‘their own company’ during their short break on Loch Ness, but actual holiday highlights included the company of others.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Pet-friendly cottage

Dog friendly cottages are a must in today’s world. It was estimated in 2016 that over 40% of households had one pet or more. A pet is part of the family and are a huge part of people’s lives. They can be the making of a ‘funny’ story simply by their impulsive antics and behaviour. We surmised that guests preferred to bring their pet to their Scottish cottage holiday rather than leaving them behind. Needless to say all four Aldourie cottages are dog-friendly cottages with ample garden space for them to roam around. The area of Loch Ness and the Highlands is full of walks, hikes and trails perfect for dog walking holidays.

Child-friendly cottage

There is many a holiday cottage that would appear to be child friendly but strangely is not. So – tip – when searching for cottage stays don’t get caught up in the showy visuals before checking the facts. We can’t imagine Aldourie without children roaming about the place, having fun. Children help adults lose their inhibitions too, simply by being carefree, being themselves. Reading comments in our guest book it was clear that a sense of fun and adventure was at the heart of a family holiday in the Highlands.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Private garden

One of the main pulls of a holiday cottage break, we found, is its home from home feel. People are possessive of space, and quite understandably. It gives you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to manipulate your surroundings to your own desires and needs. Personal outside space is just as important to cottage holidaymakers. Our previous guests have made the best memories outdoors: afternoon barbeques with friends, romantic evening drinks by moonlight and the kids playing with the dog in the garden. Privacy is also key to a peaceful holiday. All you have to do is look at Ivy Cottage’s idyllic country garden to see what we mean.

Character & original features

Character is something very close to people’s hearts, in various forms, but particularly in buildings. Families and friends who stay in a cottage that has been renovated into a luxury self-catering holiday cottage also want to appreciate the original features. They also like to see lots of wood – particularly if the cottage is in a rural setting. And why not? It makes everything so much more authentic. On the Aldourie Estate in the Highlands you don’t have to imagine real logs burning on open fires, cosy corners and characterful beams in every room.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Mod-cons & comfort for easy living

We also confirmed our suspicions that people want to feel ‘at home’ in a holiday cottage on Loch Ness. They want to feel as though they have everything they have at home, and more. Take, for example, that essential souped up coffee maker that makes every morning a Sunday morning. Or a huge American style fridge-freezer. They mean you can stock up, for the most relaxing and efficient luxury self-catering holiday cottage you’ll ever experience. We also discovered that groups and families who stayed at an Aldourie cottage preferred the comfort over aesthetic. So when it comes to lounging on the sofa or curling up in bed, priorities would be lots of soft cushions, high arms to snuggle into and a good mattress.

Close to culture and landmarks

Holiday cottage dwellers prefer to be in striking distance of at least a few well-known places of interest. Not to cut down on travel time; in fact, driving is seen as a highlight of many cottage holidays. It can evoke a real holiday feel to be so close to famous landmarks whilst to others it’s satisfying to feel like a ‘local’ in a holiday destination. Conveniently, Aldourie Estate and its four traditional cottages are close to tourist hot spots.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

The city of Inverness is a hive of culture as our recently posted guide to family attractions in Inverness explains. Fort Augustus is a scenic drive away, as is the famous Black Isle region. The Caledonian Canal is accessible from Loch Ness cottage stays and the southern shoreline is home to some impressive landmarks including Urquhart Castle.

It is very clear people expect certain things from a luxury self-catering holiday cottage.  But of course, every family and group have different requirements. Friends on a cycling holiday for instance would likely put scenery and terrain at the top of their list. Families may gravitate more towards a cottage with the latest appliances and an enclosed garden. Nonetheless, it was agreed by all our previous guests that an Aldourie cottage holiday was somewhat of a dream escape and everyone who’s ever left has wanted to return.

Our cottage calendar checker makes it easy to check dates for Aldourie cottages – take a peek at available dates here or call 01463 751309.


The best holiday cottage tours near Inverness

Aldourie Castle Estate is located just a few miles from the centre of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its peaceful setting and convenient location make it the ideal place for enjoying best cottage holiday tours near Inverness.

The private Estate hosts numerous guests at any one time. For example, we might have a private house party of guests in the Castle, a family of four in Gate Lodge and a group of cycling friends at Pier Cottage. Each individual or group will have different expectations and ideas for their holiday on Loch Ness. Therefore, we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness. We also made sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.

It’s easy to take advantage of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. This is mainly because there are so many reputable tour operators providing an variety of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness. They operate only a few miles away in Inverness and this guide comprises a few carefully selected favourites.pier cottage Aldourie Estate best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Walking or cycling tours

One of the very first things our guests request is information on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to do it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. However, others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views. If you are searching for the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness, be sure to include a cycling trip.

Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and tourist destination Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. Stop off at romantic glens, shimmering waterfalls, wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own. This varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views. These include the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.walkers in the Scottish Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Cycling tours offer freedom

For a chance to use your own bike opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. This is an ideal day out if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time. You will have been issued a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland.

Experience the utter joy of viewing spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.

Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, perhaps for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn. From this spot simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline. You’ll quickly realise the joy of a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.Man Cycling in the Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Whisky distilleries & tastings

There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines two famous distilleries in an area that houses over half the distilleries in Scotland. And both are situated in entirely different settings so you get a feel for their uniqueness. To experience some of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness you must book at least one trip to a whisky distillery.

The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.

Afterwards, visit Aberlour village for lunch before heading to the ancient parish of Dufftown, in which sits Glenfiddich Distillery. Here, stone walled paths intercept white wash warehouses with grey domed roofs against a backdrop of thick green forest; a postcard worthy scene. You will take the ‘Explorer’ tour before tasting another four drams of signature malts.whisky tasting seet up Macallan Distillery best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Truly ‘taste’ the Highlands

Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is. From the moment you enter the door you are greeted by genuinely friendly staff and the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes. Your guide will appear to emit endless knowledge and obvious pride in the distillery. Breathe in the atmosphere of peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses. Then finally, arrive in the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop.

The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one. Whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported to another world. You may well become a whisky convert (if not already a lover). Most importantly, you will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.

If you get the bug why not book on some more whisky distillery tours for the rest of your short break, taking your pick of the crème of the crop in the scenic splendour of Speyside. A fan of the dram? Have a read about three other distillery suggestions in our place of interest blog post.

We look forward to posting our second installment of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. Look forward to details on wildlife and nature alongside boating and cultural tours around Inverness and Loch Ness.


Top 10 family attractions in Inverness

At Aldourie Estate in Scotland we welcome guests to stay in its beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Our holiday cottage guests stay for different types of short breaks. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm. Others are go-with-the-flow families looking for a relaxing yet fun-filled short break. We also love hosting couples who are looking for sanctuary and space and time to enjoy with only one another. Because after all, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it? In this blog we have listed for your perusal the top 10 family attractions in Inverness.

Couples holidaying in Scotland tend to prefer long drives out to the hills and ambling around peaceful villages they have seen in magazines or in films. With this in mind, we have produced a list for the those holidaymakers who wish to stay more local to their Aldourie holiday cottage. Inverness, the most local city only six miles away from Aldourie, is great for enjoying family attractions. In fact, it boasts a deceivingly ample offering of tourist destinations that can often get overshadowed by the wild calls of the idyllic, majestic countryside of the Scottish Highlands.fort george from above family attractions in Inverness

River Ness

If refreshing walks and scenic beauty are your idea of the perfect day out then do visit River Ness. It’s one of the most walked family attractions in Inverness. It is about 12 miles long and flows from the north of Loch Ness to north-east in Loch Dochfour. In the summer, bask in the warm and peaceful riverside whilst relaxing and taking in the freshly-scented air. In winter, we hope you’re lucky enough to witness the mountains topped with snow for truly breath-taking views. To add a touch of magic to your cottage holiday in Inverness, head south in the evening to the Ness islands. You’ll find them in the middle of the river and you can stroll the walking paths linked by little bridges. Lit up against the dark skies, they make for a beautiful moonlit walk.

Fort George

Situated at the edge of the Moray Firth facing harsh North Sea winds, this remarkable fort is well established for tourists yet maintains a strong sense of authenticity due to its current use as a British Army barracks. The impressive landmark overflows with both historical charm – step inside its pretty chapel – and fascinating facts – muse the battle relics in the museum. Fort George is cleverly laid out for visitors to experience it fully. Tourists can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. The fort is possibly the most historically relevant family attractions in Inverness. Be prepared to be transported back to the year 1727 crossing the drawbridge and wandering around the ancient fort. Then watch out for the intense sudden winds as you cross over the wide killing ground.  Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.Inverness Botanic Gardens family attractions in Inverness

Inverness Botanic Gardens

Plant and flower lovers will adore this celebration of natural life with its well-kept ecosystems. Descend a delightful stone staircase with wrought iron railings into a botanical paradise. You will find it peppered with archways in stone walls, columns and statues. Sit by the small but perfectly formed fountain and let its trickling sounds relax you for a while as the kids play in the maze. Inverness Botanic Gardens is a lovely day out for families seeking outdoor family attractions in Inverness; the memory tree is particularly appealing as are the greenhouses. It is a great learning experience full of a variety of plants.

Ship Space

Another family attractions in Inverness must-see is Ship Space, a free to enter interactive maritime museum. It houses an amazing collection of relics from the Titanic as well as the impressive 88ft outdoor replica. Located along the Caledonian Canal, visitors can explore its various exhibits, photographs and information about various ships. Exhibits include fascinating film footage of divers going down into the sunken Titanic. This family hotspot will have the kids’ imaginations whirring so it’s worth dedicating an hour to get the best out of the unique exhibition. This is an eclectic space full of different levels. So, although fabulous for exploring, it’s not ideally laid out for disabled access.

ship space family attractions in Inverness

The Highlanders’ Museum

Residing in the walls of Fort George (detailed above) the Highlanders’ Museum featuring The Queen’s own collection covers three floors of the Lieutenant Governors’ House. It represents three of the four famous Scottish regiments which The Highlanders descend from; originally Highland clans of the 1700s. Refurbished to a high standard this is a fine attraction showcasing important Scottish history in impressive, authentic surroundings. This museum has an extensive collection of thrilling artefacts so if you are factoring this visit into a tour of Fort George, remember to allow plenty of time to peruse at your leisure.

highlanders museum family attractions in Inverness

Eden Court Theatre

Whether it’s to delight over a nostalgic ballet, go to the cinema or dine out in contemporary surroundings, this ambient Inverness venue is a cultural and social hub. It’s one of the most contemporary family attractions in Inverness. It features light, airy spaces that will bring even more fun to your cottage holiday on Loch Ness. Break up your action-packed holiday in Scotland with an evening out to enjoy dinner and a music concert. Loch Ness cottage holidaymakers travelling over winter can see the Christmas pantomime at this family-friendly attraction in Inverness. Oh, yes they can!

Greig Street Bridge

It’s been described as “bouncy” and “elegant” by Loch Ness holiday cottage guests, so wouldn’t you want to give it a go? Greig Street Bridge is a footbridge with an impressive view of the city of Inverness. It crosses over the River Ness and provides ample opportunity to stop and sight-see. Admire its fine ironwork frame but also the castle and churches on each side of the river. In spring, take a walk at your leisure and stop to look at the daises on the fresh green banks. On a sunny autumn day enjoy the bridge’s peacefulness and gentle swing. Gazing down watch the rippling water and up high the richly–coloured Highland leaves flying on the breeze.eden court theatre family attractions in Inverness

Inverness Cathedral

Grandiose with exquisite detail this striking cathedral is a credit to Inverness. It is stuated on the riverbank and makes a captivating postcard picture of your photograph travels. The historical space is a hive of stained-glass and beautiful sculptures found through magnificent arches over mosaic flooring. You will find a sense of Scottish spirit and a peaceful atmosphere within these walls.  Once outside you can enjoy its eye-catching architecture against a wild Scottish Highlands’ canvas. You’ll be pleased to have spent time in one of the most notable family attractions in Inverness.

The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre

It’s what it says on the (tartan shortbread) tin; a wonderfully traditional shop to stop off at during your Highlands short break. The Kiltmaker Visitor Centre is great for tourists who want to remember their Scottish holiday in style. The friendly store sells everything you could ever want as a Scottish holiday gift or to remind yourself of the Highlands and Loch Ness. It specialises in making kilts although will happily take your own material and fashion it into a wonderful outfit. Perhaps you’re planning a small intimate wedding on Loch Ness and brought your chosen tartan along for the groomsmen’s kilts. This is yet another cosy little place in Inverness to make a lasting impression.inverness cathedral family attractions in Inverness

Old High St Stephen’s Church

Aesthetically different from the cathedral the ancient stonework and bonny pointed turrets make this church a favoured tourist attraction. One of the oldest family attractions in Inverness, Old High has been in use since Celtic times.  Inside, leaflets provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. The church is a convenient cultural add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness. Explore its beautiful cemetery and be amazed at the clever and enduring architecture before entering the doors and losing yourself in its historic stained glass stories.

As you will have realised there is more to Inverness than initially meets the eye. It’s not simply a convenient airport for landing flights from London Heathrow and other major UK and international cities, although that is quite a pull, we admit. Inverness is a tourist city in its own right and the ideal holiday destination for short breaks where a bit of culture and history is just as important as freeing loch walks and dramatic landscapes.

Look out for our next blog post where we’ll invite you to explore the best tours around Inverness, from wine tastings and boat trips to nature spotting and sight seeing.


Christmas & New Year stays in Scotland

Why not make Christmas 2016 the year you decide to do something different? But don’t wait until the New Year to make your resolutions? Set a date now and start looking forward…

The beautiful, unassuming yet captivating Scottish Highlands does not ask anything of anyone. It looks down from above at all its worth. The majesty of its hills, the uniqueness of its landmarks and the intensity of its history. The vast wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is always there, like any other landscape. It continues as usual underneath these huge ever-changing skies.

Imagine entering a world like no other; a freeing endless space just waiting to be discovered by someone new. Whether your Christmas family holidays are usually land based with cycling routes and long country walks or water based with loch cruises, dolphin watching or canoeing, there is everything in the Highlands to keep your boredom at bay and your imagination running wild.

So, where do you stay in order to appreciate and experience a really traditional Scottish Christmas and New Year? Here at Aldourie we have the best of both worlds. Book a luxurious exclusive use stay or a self-catered stay in the heart of the Highlands countryside. Both are tempting, we agree, and also offer instant access to the famous waters of Loch Ness.

A cottage Christmas

Children and adults alike can enjoy at least some of what the Scottish Highlands has to offer, if not all. Simply book a traditional short break stay over Christmas weekend in either Gate or Pier Cottage. They are both the perfect family or couples’ holiday cottages on Loch Ness. Christmas is a social time for street festivals, festive markets and parties. But it’s also a time for intimate family time exploring landscapes, unearthing history and tasting fabulous food together. Couples can escape to the Highlands of Scotland to experience the romance of its magical landscape. So much of this can be found in the deep valleys of the country’s mountainous walks.

There are cities for the vibrant souls who are looking for a festive party atmosphere and there are quieter destinations like the quaint towns and villages of Dornoch, Fort William and Glencoe. In the latter you will find deliciously festive food and drink, picture perfect snow-topped views and a variety of frosty walks and cycle paths. Further up out of the towns there are even some well coursed mountain biking routes. These are ideal for the adventurers amongst you. Fancy some culture? Scotland’s rich history will captivate and shock you.

New Year in a Castle

Fancy gliding along Loch Ness through the darkness and spotting beautiful Aldourie illuminated through the trees on New Years’ Eve? We can organise a cruise or speedboat ride so that you can experience just that. In fact, just about anything is possible with an exclusive use stay at Aldourie.

Some firm family favourites of previous exclusive use New Year’s house parties are archery in front of the Castle, falconry days and walking on water (or zorbing) – a great one for the kids as the minimum age is five years old. For those who want to explore the nature-filled Highlands independently during the festive season Aldourie can recommend the best walks and cycling routes but if you prefer a guide we can organise that instead.

After so much fun and activity to help bring in the New Year you can relax back at the Castle with a spa treatment or two; our favoured supplies can offer a personal service during your stay – a hot stone massage or an Indian head massage would go down a treat after a day hiking the hills of the Black Isle or taking in the rich culture of the city of Inverness. Later, whisky or wine tasting in the Library or Drawing Room could perfectly end well-rounded New Year’s Day at Aldourie Castle.

 


Halloween House Party in a castle; get spooked in Scotland

If you’re planning a holiday or family short break over Halloween why not go overboard and book a private castle in the wild Scottish Highlands? Even better, a Castle that looks out across the eerily silent yet constantly moving Loch Ness. And of that variety, there is only one: Aldourie. OK, so it doesn’t possess the spookiest name (in fact it’s quite magical) but with a little help from your hosts and some imagination we can convert your Halloween stay into a spooky holiday to remember.

Here are three excellent ideas for making the most out of a Halloween stay in the Scottish Highlands.

Old fashioned Halloween activities – for the traditionalist

Stick with the tried and tested route during your exclusive use group stay in a private castle.  Start your Halloween adventure early by getting up early with the children to go out and buy some pumpkins to celebrate the famous night. Also look out for little trick or treat and fancy dress items, Halloween chocolates and bits of material in blacks, oranges, silvers and reds.  Later, carve pumpkins by scooping out the flesh and creating scary faces with a sharp knife – why not set up a competition for the scariest face!pumpkins Halloween

Your countdown to Halloween Night can also be made up of creating your lucky dip box. Fill a large cardboard box with polystyrene or shredded paper (usually the Estate Office or hospitality team would be able to provide you with these or something similar) and then carefully add your trick or treat items into the mix. This will add a fun spin to your trick or treating later on.

It’s nearly time for Trick or Treat. Set one of the downstairs rooms up as the fancy dress space and encourage everyone to dress up as their chosen ghoul or character ready to sit down for an Addams Family style dinner. Afterwards, enjoy Halloween buns that you’ve baked with the kids during the afternoon. Ask the youngsters to decorate the Castle with pumpkins, adding them on every other windowsill as well as outside the house or castle door, therefore transforming your exclusive use holiday property into ‘a haunted house in the middle of nowhere’.Looking over Loch Ness towards Aldourie Castle. Halloween

Theme your night ‘Halloween’ – for the brave

Playing make-believe in a turreted castle in vast, private grounds is easy to convince children to do but Halloween themed hen parties, for example, can also have a ball with more adults and humorous characters from, say, The Rocky Horror Show. A Halloween house party would not be complete without a soundtrack of well-chosen spooky songs and theme tunes. During the day download some music from the Internet and create a Halloween song list on Spotify to play once the sun goes down.

Light candles in the centre of your pumpkin faces, turn off all the main lights and tell ghost stories in the library into the evening. Watch horror movies in the Castle whilst drinking spiced cider or hot chocolate. For those too scared to go to bed afterwards, don’t worry, most of the bedrooms in an exclusive use property have space for a huddle of people and you can also double up if you have one of the single rooms. Just remember, of course, to check under the bed.15-aldourie-estate-graveyard-entrance Halloween

Use the Estate after dark – for the bravest

At Aldourie you can tour the grounds – visit the ancient family graveyard, go on a frightening storytelling walk through the woodland followed by a torch-lit boat trip on the loch. The bravest among you can play Hide and Seek. At Aldourie your seeker can count up in the tree house whilst those of you hiding can use the deepest depths of the exclusive use property and Estate. Remember, there’s always a wine cellar and secret servant corridors, as well as the woods – but only if you dare.

And for those who appreciate an excuse to do something different but shudder at the thought of booking their short break or holiday over the 31st October, you can always take the calmer approach. Exclusive use gusts of Aldourie can sit with their pumpkin friends around a fire on Dores Beach and watch the sun go down whilst happily toasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate. Because, honestly now, not everything has to be so spooky over Halloween.


What to do on a rainy day at Aldourie Castle

It may seem a little absurd to print a blog post so focussed on rainy weather during a week on Loch Ness when there has been so much sun. But you must never take a sunny day in the Scottish Highlands for granted and always prepare for the best things to do in the rain. We don’t mean to dampen your spirits, however, so read on for Aldourie’s top tips on how best to enjoy a castle holiday when the weather turns…tree house aldourie castle estate scotland

Early morning

Wake up to a warming Scottish breakfast enjoyed in front of the burning fireside of the Lairds Room. There’s no better way to prepare for the chill of a rainy day than with a heart-warming plate of good traditional food.

Exclusive use holidays are best enjoyed when the whole family gets together for breakfast, still in their pyjamas and slippers with sleep in their eyes. After all, what use is a private hire property if you are not as relaxed as you would be in your own home? Finish off with a steaming cup of coffee before dressing for the outdoors – layers of clothing (because walking can make you warm) and preferably waterproofs.

Mid-morning

Pick out some Hunters from the Castle’s welly room, grab Loch Ness Lizzie from the Aldourie office and head out into the parkland with a large golf brolly. Walking is the best way to see Aldourie Estate, in fact any Highlands estate, in anything from a meek little drizzle to a full on downpour.welly room aldourie castle

The arboretum just next to the Castle which groups of guests can literally tumble into is where you will find the treehouse hidden amongst the treetops as you walk along the Loch Ness shoreline. The Aldourie family graveyard is a sight to behold in the rain, if a little spooky, and multigenerational family house party stays at Aldourie during Halloween usually squeeze in a visit or two. The tombstones and original triptych engravings are enough to get you into the spirit of the setting. Be warned: if Loch Ness Lizzie is still with you by this point she may try to find a comfy spot in the long grass so it could be best to let her catch you up.

Our beautiful newly renovated greenhouses provide scenic relief from the rain and let you enjoy the raindrop sounds up above as you absorb some heat as well as the scents of fresh salads and vegetables.

Lunchtime

Come lunch time on the Estate we recommend that you and your private party of guests savour some of Aldourie Castle’s delicious Scottish cuisine once again. Our fresh scallops from Applecross have been known to bring sunshine to the wettest of days in the Castle, whilst our roasted loin of Speyside lamb or fillet of Highland beef lets you succumb to the most treacherous weather and indulge in the sheer cosiness a traditional hearty dish can bring.Aldourie Castle, Fine Dining Scotland

Afterwards a variety of fresh fruit juices, if the rainy weather and full tummy have made you weary, are just the thing to pep you up for another jaunt around Aldourie’s 500 acre grounds.

Mid-afternoon

Burn off your lunch with a walk through the woodland or even a spot of cycling if the ground isn’t too muddy. Go to the very edge of the Castle’s private pier for some magnificent views as you gaze across to the Highland hills over Loch Ness.

Do you fancy water sports in the rain? No, neither do we. But a boat ride when you’re covered from top to toe in waterproofs and protected well from the unflappable Scottish elements can be a real thrill. Let us book you an hour with Cruise Loch Ness on the Nessie Hunter and experience adventure whilst distracting the kids from the rainy weather.

All that water will have you yearning for a hot pot of tea and some cream cakes – Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room with the fire and a good book, anyone?cruise loch ness boat aldourie castle scotland

Dinnertime

One of the best ways to warm up after a rainy day is to have a long soak in a roll top bath with a hot chocolate on the side. Take your time getting ready in your luxury bedroom and re-join your party in front of the Aldourie Library’s real wood fire for a pre-dinner catch up on the day’s events.

Afterwards, sit for dinner around the long table in the atmospheric Dining Room to enjoy chef’s choice of Scottish cuisine accompanied by a glass of the finest red wine from the Castle cellar.

Evening

Spend a while in the Games Room for a spot of billiards or a couple of traditional board games or let Aldourie’s hospitality manager organise a whisky or wine tasting in the Red Drawing Room. Either of these are such cosy, indulgent indoor holiday activities for when a storm hits Loch Ness.view loch ness aldourie castle window

Help yourself to your favourite drink – sherry or port will keep the chill away – and take a moment to gaze out of the large windows of Aldourie. Why not take in the portraits in the Main Hall, stop midway up a spiral staircase or relax on a window seat along the luxurious corridor upstairs to watch and listen to the rain pitter patter against the glass and drop into the Loch. You could even take a journey up to a turreted balcony and feel the refreshing rain on your skin – after all, if you can’t sing and dance in the rain during a stay in a stately Scottish castle, when can you?


Activities on Loch Ness Part 1: From family fun to some alone time

What’s so special about Loch Ness? The lure of water itself, the freedom of its restless current? Or could it be its transient beauty? It’s a place where not one moment will ever be the same. Loch Ness is always on the move ready to embrace its next adventure, yet it retains a stillness that can calm troubled or wandering minds. Holiday on Loch Ness and feel your stresses float away. If you read on you will find out that there are many ways to achieve this other than meditating on a raft. Though, we could definitely arrange that for you.Aldourie Castle estate view over Loch Ness Activities on Loch Ness

You could be part of a family reunion, a multi-generational holiday party, or a group of friends sharing the same interests such as golf, cycling or walking. Or simply wanting to go it alone and hire a Castle on Loch Ness for the inspiration to write your novel, complete your portfolio of landscape paintings or take some time out from a hectic work schedule. Whatever your reasons for coming to stay here in a beautiful Castle on the shoreline of the majestic Loch Ness, the great Scottish outdoors beholds something for everyone.

Take a look; it’s a simple picture and yet the opportunities for fun, experience and adventure are endless. We just advise that you pack your imagination when coming to stay at Aldourie but should there simply not be enough room in your suitcase our creative hospitality team will always be on hand to recommend a host of activities.

Families: ensure your exclusive use holiday includes quality time

There are many reasons why a family would choose to visit the famous Loch Ness with all its diversions and areas of interest, its history and mesmerising beauty. Not to mention the excitement for children visiting the home of folklore celebrity, Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. After a leisurely morning taking breakfast at the Castle during your exclusive use stay with us let Aldourie’s team book you a cruise on Loch Ness that will take you up close to some of the Scottish Highlands most historic, cultural and wondrous landmarks.Jacobite cruises loch ness-1 Activities on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle is a must-see during your family trip on Loch Ness. Take your boat for up to 12 people from the private Aldourie pier on the exclusive Highlands Estate and spend a couple of hours admiring the views, learning Scotland’s most fascinating history and enjoy a spot of lunch en route.

Venture forth and stop off at the Moray Firth, one of the most important places on the U.K. coast for observing dolphins and whales. Given a nod to its scenic brilliance the coastline has been voted one of the most picturesque by National Geographic. With direct tours available from Inverness just a few miles down the road from Aldourie Castle, don’t miss out on a family experience in Scotland that will leave you speechless and clutching the camera in order to capture the next incredible sighting. The most common species are the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Harbour Porpoise with occasional sightings of Common dolphin and Minke Whale.

Friends: do something different for years of reminiscing

When groups of friends come to stay at Aldourie in the stunning Scottish Highland landscape they not only marvel at the views from their luxurious bedrooms and get swept away by the fresh air taking tea on the terrace. Friends holidaying in Scotland want to get involved in their surroundings and experience something together that will make for lasting memories. The Nessie Hunter is definitely a trip on Loch Ness we highly recommend to any group stay at the private Scottish Castle. Be led astray by the expert hunters on your personal speed boat and follow the lure of the waves to try to catch a glimpse of the iconic Monster. Be part of Aldourie’s fairytale and let your imagination take you into the heart of Loch Ness.The Deborah Leah Cruise Activities on Loch Ness

If during the week your group is hoping for something a little more relaxed, you can take a rowing boat from the Aldourie marina (the hospitality team at the Castle will be happy to arrange this for you) and wade out in smaller groups from the private pier on the Highland Estate. Experience Loch Ness and its many scenes from the comfort and joy or your own personal space and take in the hilly surroundings in your own good time.

We’ll let all this information on Loch Ness sink in whilst you take time to plan your next family holiday or group stay with friends in the Scottish Highlands until Aldourie’s next blog post. This second instalment will feature even more fun activities to experience on the most famous stretch of water in the world.


A dog’s role on a Scottish Castle Estate

It really is ‘a dog’s life’ when home is a Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Let’s find out what this Castle dog’s daily routine is really like. After all, all play and no work makes Loch Ness Lizzie a restless pooch – and we wouldn’t want that…

Watching for guests’ arrival
One of Lizzie’s very first jobs after she wakes up in the morning is to go out to the main gate of Aldourie Estate and wait for the day’s guests to arrive. This could be an exclusive use family house party who are taking over the Castle as their own home for a week, some corporate guests coming to set up a business meeting or even a group of cyclists who have booked one of the four holiday cottages on Loch Ness for a cycling weekend.At the main gate Scottish Castle Estate

Meet and greet
Once she has clocked their arrival Lizzie is highly trained at directing the cars and bikes to their allocated ‘home’ and helping Aldourie’s guests settle in. The experienced pooch tends to take the short cut across the lawns whilst private groups of families and friends staying at the Castle stick to the main drive so as not to lose their way – and make more of a grand entrance. They soon realise however that being met and greeted at the Castle or Aldourie cottages is a very informal process and that, despite the grandeur of this historic Highland Estate, guests are made to feel right at home at Aldourie straight away.

Fetching and carrying
It’s a busy life for a Castle Dog; no sooner has Lizzie shown our new arrivals to the impressive Castle door or down the garden path into their idyllic Highland cottage on Loch Ness then it’s time to grab their luggage and take it inside. If the Castle guests are part of a group booking where bedrooms have been pre-designated Lizzie consults her trusty list and makes sure that each suitcase is dropped off in the correct bedroom. (Of course, sometimes nature intervenes, and the highly clever retriever forgets what she was going to pick up and opts for the nearest stick).Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots Scottish Castle Estate

Making sure guests are settling in
So, you’ve arrived at your luxury holiday destination in beautiful Scotland and unpacked all your belongings needed for a short break in the Highlands or a week long house party celebration in a Castle with family and friends. If you’re staying in one of the tranquil holiday cottages on the quiet Estate you’ve no doubt made a cup of steaming coffee from the coffee machine and sat down in front of the fire ready to plan your short break.

If you’re staying in the Castle overlooking the majestic Scottish Highlands and magical Loch Ness waters you’ve likely requested a bottle of champagne and are currently enjoying bathing in your roll top bath whilst admiring the scenic outdoor views from your en suite window. Then there’s a tap at the door. It’s only Lizzie with her courtesy call to make sure you and your party of guests have settled in well enough and to check whether you need anything. Bless her furry paws.

In charge of ‘fun’ and games
Here’s another example of Lizzie getting distracted and not completing her previous job before starting a new one. Being responsible for organising the fun activities both on and off the Highland Estate, either inside or outside the Castle, is something Lizzie takes a great deal of pride in. Liaising with Aldourie’s trusted suppliers in order to arrange unique and exciting activities such as archery in the grounds or a boat ride on Loch Ness for guests to enjoy is no mean feat. (No, Lizzie, that’s ‘mean feat’ not ‘meat treat’ – you can have one of those later. When you finish all your jobs).Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots n Paddles Scottish Castle Estate

Organising Highland walks
One of the most popular and enjoyable ways to spend your time on the Aldourie Estate in Scotland is to borrow a pair of Hunters wellies from the Castle and take an adventure through the lush woodland. With 500 acres to explore no route you take will ever be the same in this unique place near Inverness. Some of our parties of guests who take exclusive use of Aldourie Castle are happy to get lost in the arboretum stumbling across the wooden Nessie and ambling along to the private marina to gaze out across the mesmerising Loch. Other like to have a structured route and know exactly what time they are going to return to their dwelling for dinner. That’s when we ask Lizzie to lend a hand and act as tour guide showing people the short cuts and most scenic spots making sure to incorporate a trip to the tree house, family graveyard and pretty gardens.Near Pier cottage spotting wildlfe Scottish Castle Estate

Maintaining the grounds and gardens
Speaking of the gardens at Aldourie, there is much to maintain that sometimes our gardeners need a bit of support to do the manual jobs whilst they concentrate on landscaping and making each area functional and pretty – or both.

Lizzie is always ready with her outdoorsy nature to jump on the lawnmower and take an hour out of her otherwise busy schedule to keep the Aldourie grounds in good shape. She particularly likes this job because the weather has to be dry so she tends to get a clear view of Aldourie Castle; her favourite place in the world…


What lies within; Aldourie grounds and gardens uncovered

Garden Bedroom inside Aldourie Castle seems to hint at the outdoor enchantment of this exclusive use rental property on the shores of Loch Ness. Its pastel coloured walls are peppered with delicate floral pattern camouflaging the hidden door to an adjoining daffodil-yellow bathroom, itself laden with nostalgic prints of the ethereal Scottish Highlands. Above a grand mahogany four poster bed cascades rich green fabric and the windows opposite tease guests with picture perfect views over neat lawns, ancient bridges and wild forests.luxury group accommodation Scotland - Aldourie grounds

Introducing the secret gardens of Aldourie: woodland walks, adventures in the arboretum, green houses brimming with life, lush orchards, fresh herb gardens and more…

Greenhouses for the green fingered
The greenhouses at Aldourie have long since been part of the private Castle’s charm and have stood in the vast clearing behind the dense arboretum for over a century. The past year has seen a lot of hard work by the Aldourie Estate’s gardeners go into the redesign and reconstruction of the greenhouses to better show off their shimmering glass panes and reveal the colourful treasures within.

At the end of summer 2016 Aldourie Castle’s private guests will be free to wander across and pick their own goodies from the greenhouses to enjoy back inside the luxurious Castle. In the kitchen Aldourie’s personal chef will whip up something delicious to bring in the new season and the Castle can celebrate its reconciliation with the Estate in using own-grown produce to feed its guests.

Fairytale woodland ignites imaginations
The enchanting woodland on the Aldourie Estate is a labyrinth of paths and clearings housing an abundance of wildlife varied enough to represent the whole of the Scottish Highlands.Aldourie woodland exclusive use stay Aldourie grounds

The 500 acre Estate is made up of part woodland and part parkland so you can imagine how much green there might be in and around the exclusive Castle’s grounds. Children enjoy their land of make believe exploring the woodland; making their own Easter trails and finding Santa’s Grotto at Christmastime. Just as much, adults love the romantic walks and catching a glimpse of deer playing in the moonlight on summer evenings.

Herb garden gives taste to Castle menu
It’s not only the home grown salad that will be causing a stir in the Aldourie kitchen. Our keen gardeners have been working on the formal gardens making a specific area dedicated to a variety of herbs. These will eventually be hand-picked by our chefs on a daily basis to help flavour the already delicious dishes made for the Castle’s exclusive use guests. The pretty patch is already underway and brimming with possibilities. The hospitality team at Aldourie look forward to its official launch when the private hire property in Scotland can state that it uses herbs cut fresh from its gardens to flavour each and every dish on its menu. Just another way in which the Highlands Estate gives back to the Castle and its loyal guests.fish dish luxury exclusive use scotland - Aldourie grounds

Arboretum has endless adventure
Filled with trees of every kind the Aldourie arboretum is a haven for adventure, freedom and fun. A nature lover’s paradise it houses surprises at every turn (we won’t tell you all of them as they won’t be a secret, then) and wondrous playful elements such as the majestic tree house on what could easily be the tallest stilts in Scotland. Discover the secrets of Loch Ness from your personal hiding place and then clamber down to find the novelty Nessie made out of a fallen tree trunk.

Mini orchard; a little piece of serenity
A year ago the gardeners at Aldourie decided to create a little piece of sanctuary in the form of a cluster of fruit trees; a mini orchard on a sprawling country estate. Not only it a beautiful place to perch oneself with a good book it’s also yet another area of the private hire property’s grounds which is laden with fresh food. Guests can grab a bite to eat en route to the ancient arboretum or take back a basket full to the kitchen and request a dessert of their choice. Dotted with snow drops in winter and blue bells in the warmer months the mini orchard paints a colourful picture in these endlessly enchanting Scottish grounds.Aldourie Castle Scotland parkland Aldourie grounds

So the next time you pass a large manor house, stately home, great hall, or even a terracotta Castle with real turrets, sitting serenely in the middle of its private Estate, think of all the possible secrets those grounds could hold and what enjoyment and freedom acres and acres of land can provide not just for those who once lived amongst it but for the people of today who arrive for a luxury holiday, a friendly visit or simply to explore all the beauty that the Scottish Highlands’ back yard has to offer.